Congresswoman Waters Urges the Senate to Pass the Stop AIDS in Prison Act This Year Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) sent a letter to Senate leaders urging them to pass the Stop AIDS in Prison Act (H.R. 1429) before the 111th Congress adjourns
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) sent a letter to Senate leaders urging them to pass the Stop AIDS in Prison Act (H.R. 1429) before the 111th Congress adjourns. The Stop AIDS in Prison Act was introduced by Congresswoman Waters last year and passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote under suspension of the rules. The bill is now awaiting consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Stop AIDS in Prison Act is one of several initiatives Congresswoman Waters is pursuing in the 111th Congress to expand HIV/AIDS awareness, testing and treatment. The Congresswoman also introduced the Routine HIV Screening Coverage Act (H.R. 2137) to require health insurance companies to cover routine HIV tests; urged the Appropriations Committee to increase funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative, which was originally developed by the Congresswoman over ten years ago; and urged robust funding of President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), which was released by the President last month.
The Congresswoman’s letter was signed by 30 Members of Congress, including Rep. John Conyers, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Robert C. Scott, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee; and several other House Judiciary Committee members. The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin; and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. The text of the letter follows:
We urge you to pass H.R. 1429, the Stop AIDS in Prison Act, before the 111th Congress adjourns. The Stop AIDS in Prison Act passed the House of Representatives last year by voice vote under suspension of the rules. The bill was then referred to the Senate where it is pending in the Judiciary Committee.
In January of this year, the Department of Justice reported that the rate of confirmed AIDS cases in prisons is 2.5 times the rate in the general population. The Department of Justice also reported that 1,538 federal prisoners were known to be living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2008, and 0.8% of federal prison inmates were known to be living with HIV/AIDS in 2008. However, the actual rate of HIV/AIDS infection in federal prisons is unknown because the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) does not consistently test prisoners for HIV. This has to change.
Last month, President Barack Obama released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and an accompanying NHAS Federal Implementation Plan. The strategy focuses on the three primary goals of reducing the number of new HIV infections, increasing access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS, and reducing HIV-related health disparities. The Implementation Plan specifically calls for the BOP to expand access to HIV screening to prisoners upon entry.
The Stop AIDS in Prison Act requires the BOP to develop a comprehensive policy to provide HIV testing, treatment and prevention for inmates in federal prisons. This bill requires the BOP to test all federal prison inmates for HIV upon entering prison and again prior to release from prison, unless the inmate opts out